Sponsor Feature: Lydia's Flock
Enjoy an interview with Making FAUNA Sponsor Lydia's Flock. Photos by Alisha Zavadil.
Lydia’s Flock began in 2010 when my husband and I along with our two daughters were living in the Rainier Beach neighborhood of Seattle. We heard of some neighbors who were allowing their large yard to be grazed by a small flock of sheep that was to be a part of an urban sheep project at a local community college. Once we saw that raising sheep in an urban space was possible, the decision was made to purchase our own flock. We started with a Shetland ewe lamb from a sheep and goat rescue and Black Welsh Mountain ewe from the Puyallup Fair. We then decided to purchase a starter flock of Icelandic sheep from breeders on Whidbey Island. In the meantime, I scoured our neighborhood looking for privately owned urban space that was sitting unused. I contacted the owners of several properties and was able to secure about 2 total acres in several locations, allowing us to raise our flock of sheep in Seattle for about a year, meaning our first lambs were born in the city.
In order to expand our flock, we needed more space at a cost we could afford, so we rented a farm north of Seattle. After 6 years and nearly as many farm moves, we’ve found that our greatest challenge is finding affordable farmland that is also accessible to local markets and a customer base with a desire to support small-scale, sustainable farms. Moving our farm operation so much has made it a significant challenge to establish a market of any kind, meaning that we have spent a lot of time starting over. We moved back to our home state of Minnesota in 2013 because the available farmland in the Pacific Northwest was cost prohibitive for us.
Our farm is all about the happiness and health of the sheep (and chickens, pigs, cats, and dogs). Their needs come first, at all times. If our animals aren’t living the best possible life, we aren’t doing our job properly. We utilize permaculture and Holistic Management methods to keep our flock thriving, respecting the land, the animals, and the products they produce.
Because Shetland and Icelandic sheep have special nutritional needs that our North American soils and forage cannot meet, they receive a loose mineral mix specific to the needs of Northern European Short Tail Heritage Breed sheep, containing kelp and chelated minerals. This addition to their diet improves fleece quality and color immeasurably.
Our flock is raised entirely on pasture when forage is available, hay and alfalfa in the off-pasture season. We believe raising our sheep as nature intends offers them the best quality of life.
Our breeding stock is carefully chosen for various qualities, including lustrous, strong, sturdy fleece of the highest quality that is pleasing to the touch and when processed, will endure the test of time. It is my goal that fiber lovers understand Icelandic fiber doesn’t have to feel rough and scratchy if the sheep are well raised.
Fiber from our flock is carefully and meticulously hand skirted on the farm after each shearing with some fleeces held back to sell raw. The remaining fleeces are minimally processed into roving and yarn as local to the farm as is available in order to provide a Minnesota Grown or regionally grown and produced product. Our fiber is un-dyed and unblended with any other type of fiber to maintain heritage breed qualities in the finished product. It is processed in small batches unique in the colors of the Icelandic and Shetland breeds. Fleece color varies slightly from year to year as sheep age and their environment changes; meaning each batch of finished fiber is one of a kind.
We believe in complete transparency in our farming methods, values, and fiber production- from the hay we purchase and the shearer we use to the mills who process our fiber. We vet those who process our fiber and may provide care for our sheep, very carefully. Humane and ethical animal welfare standards are our core values.
Raising sheep is one of the greatest joys and privileges of my life. It is my desire that the love for our sheep flock and all they give to us be evident in our fiber products.
Thank you, Lydia!